During the glorious Australian era of 1995-2007, the team was full of gritty players like Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath. However, their in-your-face attitude made it difficult for the Indian audience to love them. Like every rule, Indian’s dislike for the Australians also had an exception, that is Brett Lee, who was the most loved and respected Australian in the Indian subcontinent.
Lee-A child prodigy
Born on this day in New South Wales, Lee had decided to graduate into a fearsome fast bowler at a quite tender age. “I want to become the fastest bowler in the world and want to play from Australia” used to be his answer about his dreams. His first-class career started at the early age of 16 in NSW, where he briefly shared the new ball with future arch-rival Shoaib Akhtar. Along with Jason Gillespie and Mr Cricket Mike Hussey, he was awarded a scholarship to attend the AIS Australian Cricket Academy in 1995.
In 1999, he made his test debut against India and grabbed a five-wicket hall in his very first match. His nearly 93mph yorkers and bouncers made headlines. However, Lee could not capitalise on his initial success and for the next 4 years, he was just an average bowler in the Test arena. Lee compensated for his poor show in Test matches by his brilliant and consistent match-winning performances in ODIs. He was one of the most feared bowlers on the bouncy and pacey wickets of the 2003 world cup in South Africa. During his bowling, the speedometer regularly clocked more than 150 km/hr. In one match, he castled technically sound Marvan Atapattu’s stump. Atapattu was beaten by the raw pace of 160.7 km/hr, very near to the peak of human abilities. Later he went on to become the leader of the Australian pace attack in limited formats.
Bret’s Test career was slow to gather pace
While Lee was an indistinguishable feature of limited over squad throughout his life, his test career took a while to pick up. His first real showdown in the Test arena came in Ashes 2005, where he bowled day in and day out spells to fill the void created by Glenn McGrath’s injury. His dismissal of Michael Vaughn and his dual with Kevin Pietersen is still counted among his best moments by his fans. Later on, he went on to lead the pace attack until he retired from the format in 2010. His most notable performance came against a technically sophisticated batting line-up of India in the 2008 series when he grabbed 24 wickets in 4 test matches.
Assassin with the ball, gentleman without the ball
Though Lee was out an outpace bowler, he rarely showed signs of the bad-boy attitude the pace bowlers are said to possess. In fact, Lee is said to be one of the humblest and loved cricketers all around the world. He was ferocious in his approach and did not think for a second before hurling a bouncer, however, if the batsmen got injured, he used to be the first one who went the injured player to lend his hand. The Australian cricketers of that era were known for their ruthless sledging, however, BINGA never crossed the line of friendly banter while sledging. Lee has his friends from both inside as well as outside his team too. His most famous friend, Andrew Flintoff belongs to the arch-rival camp of England.
Indians love and respect him
Indians could never figure out why they loved this lanky pacer. Brett lee has a stellar record against India, he has dismissed our beloved Sachin Tendulkar 14 times, Rahul Dravid 12 times, Virender Sehwag 11 times and VVS Laxman 10 times in International cricket.
However, Indians could not hate him as he was always friendly to the country and its people. Indians starkly remember his apology to Sachin after hitting him with an unintentional beamer.
Lee has sung a duet with Asha Bhonsle. He is known as an avid learner of the Hindi language and once on a talk show he played a Hindi song ‘Muqabla’ on his guitar. He runs a restaurant that specialises in Indian cuisine. Also, he has acted as a lead in the movie UnIndian. He runs various charity events in India to serve his gratitude to the Indian public for showering him with love.
After Lee retired from the game in 2012, he kept sizzling along the T20 circuit for more than 3-years. His last match came against Perth Scorchers in BBL 2014-15. Continuing with his legacy of turning the match on his head, his last over of the career was the most dramatic. His yorkers dismissed two opposition batsmen when the team needed 1 off 3 deliveries.
However, a silly mistake by captain Moises Henriques did not allow people to watch one moreover of Lee’s brilliance along with his chainsaw celebrations.
Brett Lee is one of the most loved Australians in India. His insightful commentary on star sports is watched by millions of Indians with keen interest. He has inspired forthcoming players like Pat Cummins to love India in their own way. The ruthlessness on the field and gentlemanliness off it is a treat to saviour for the upcoming generation of cricketers. The smiling assassin will always be in the hearts of Indians.